L.A. Phil announces 2010-11 season

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Oct. 8, 2009.
(Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times)
Music Critic

Basking in the popularity of Gustavo Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic used an online press conference Tuesday morning to announce that that -- unlike most recession-weary arts organizations -- it will hold the course.

The orchestra’s 2010-11 season and the Venezuelan’s second as music director will include 12 subscription weeks conducted by Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the return of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the premieres of 19 new works, 12 commissioned by the Philharmonic. Two composer-focused festivals, a European tour, new music concerts and an expanded education program will also compete for attention amid dizzying myriad programs and activities.

“This is where we can make a difference, by not relenting,” Deborah Borda, the L.A. Philharmonic president, said recently. “And Gustavo has been the spirit behind everything.” She also noted that ticket sales have remained high, with Dudamel’s concerts regularly selling out and that the organization averages around 92% capacity for the more than 150 concerts it presents each season at Disney Hall.

Dudamel, who took part in the press conference via video from Caracas, Venezuela, is inevitably the season’s center of attention. His opening-night gala will feature Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. The big work of his two fall subscription concerts will be Olivier Messiaen’s massively ecstatic “Turangalila” Symphony.

Dudamel will begin 2011 with performances of Beethoven’s Seventh and Mahler’s Ninth symphonies, which he will then take on his first European tour with the Philharmonic, a 16-day trip to Portugal, Spain, Germany, England, France, Hungary and Austria. Also included on the tour program will be Leonard Bernstein’s First Symphony (“Jeremiah”) with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor and John Adams’ “Slonimsky’s Earbox.”

Dudamel will return in March to conduct Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and a program of Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare-inspired scores. Throughout May and in early June, he will continue the “unbound” series, which Salonen began to place classical composers in 21st century contexts, with “Brahms Unbound.”

Saying on the press conference video that “music is not about moments, music is about eternity,” Dudamel will pair Brahms’ four symphonies with, respectively, the world or U.S. premieres of Osvaldo Golijov’s Violin Concerto (written for Leonidas Kavakos), Sofia Gubaidulina’s “Glorious Percussion,” Peter Lieberson’s Percussion Concerto (with Pedro Carneiro as soloist) and Henryk Górecki’s Fourth Symphony. Steve Mackay’s “Beautiful Passing” will complement Brahms’ “A German Requiem.”

Salonen’s first appearances as conductor laureate after his 17 years as music director, will begin Nov. 20 with the U.S. premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s “Graffiti” on a program with Bartók’s only opera, “Bluebeard’s Castle.” The following week Salonen will conduct scenes from Wagner with Welsh baritone Byrn Terfel. This unlikely collaboration came about, Salonen said, when he ran into Terfel at a soccer match in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Terfel figured Salonen (whose wife, Jane, is Welsh) must be OK and decided then and there they should work together.

“Aspects of Adès,” the other L.A. Philharmonic festival, will be a tribute to the British composer Thomas Adès, who has now purchased a house in the Hollywood Hills not far from where Dudamel has a home. This will begin with a guest appearance by the Emerson Quartet playing Adès’ new string quartet. The composer will conduct his “In Seven Days” (which the Philharmonic commissioned two years ago) and a new orchestral work. Adès will also lead the first Philharmonic performance of Messiaen’s last major work, "Éclairs sur l’au-delà.”

Guest conductors for the season as usual run the gamut. A Charles Dutoit specialty is Berlioz, and he has chosen the dramatic symphony “Romeo and Juliet.” Leonard Slatkin will premiere a work by Wynton Marsalis for jazz band and orchestra, another Philharmonic commission.

The young Finnish new-music specialist Susanna Mälkki will make her Philharmonic debut with, of all things, Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” But the real surprise is a guest week with Kurt Masur, the former New York Philharmonic music director with whom Borda butted heads when she ran that orchestra.

Beside Philharmonic commissions from Gerald Barry, Francisco Coll, Gabriel Kahane, Missy Mazzoli, Andrew Norman, Salonen (a solo piano piece for Yefim Bronfman) and Stephen Tharp, the orchestra has added a category called “Commissions Revisited.” Unsuk Chin’s “Cantatrix Sopranica” and Toru Takemitsu’s “River Run” are in it.

Adams remains creative chair, and he has curated five Green Umbrella programs. Pianist Herbie Hancock becomes creative chair for jazz, and the jazz series will feature Natalie Cole, Brad Mehldau, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Hancock.

Among the recitalists appearing next season will be Bronfman, Terfel, Midori, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Itzhak Perlman. The visiting orchestras are the Israel Philharmonic (led by Zubin Mehta) and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (with its music director Yuri Temirkanov). The 90-year-old sitarist Ravi Shankar and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble will be part of the world music presentations.

Meanwhile, the YOLA EXPO Center Youth Orchestra program in South L.A. will be joined by a second project, HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles), an intensive free music program in Lafayette Park for first grad- ers.